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Post-Soviet Integration : The European Example

If Kazakhstan had already proposed the creation of an Economic Union on the scale of the former USSR in 1995, this project finally saw the light of day only in 2014. Indeed, it took more than 20 years for the former Soviet Republics to decide to once again seek to integrate together. The reasons which pushed them to this action are numerous: historical, cultural, linguistic… But it seems convincing to say that what especially convinced the founding States of the EEU was the attractiveness of the European example. To illustrate it, it suffices to present the fact that the USSR, with its authoritarian methods of integration and its inefficient economy, collapsed where the European Union, with its moderate but tenacious integration and its economic model of common market exceeded all expectations during the same historical period.

The attractiveness of the European model is probably to be found in its particular nature, a nature which makes it much more than a simple international organization with an economic goal. It represents a model of political integration as we saw in the introduction. Thus the EEU would be doomed if it were to move away from the form of a classic intergovernmental organization to once again build itself on a functionalist model.

It is also possible to assume that the attractiveness of the European model comes from its incredible achievements. Emerging from war, European states were ravaged by conflict and experienced the collapse of their colonial empires. In 1945-1950 the outlook was not encouraging for the states of Western Europe. And yet, in just half a century, they have succeeded in rebuilding themselves and creating a unique and dynamic economic space, equal to the American market. For States whose economies are stagnant because of the shortcomings born of the socialist economy and having lost their imperial prestige, it seems obvious that the example to follow is the European model.

But the European model has other reasons that make it attractive. Indeed, the doctrine has identified several aspects specific to the European Union which explain its success.

Among these we can cite what is called the “play-over” or “gear effect”. This notion was first defined by Ernst Haas in 1968 and is part of neo-functionalist thought. It refers to the fact that integrating one sector can lead to the integration of another sector and thus embodies “de facto solidarity” between the actors of integration and therefore contributes strongly to the integration process itself. For example, it was not possible to integrate the common market in Europe without mutual recognition of judgments or the creation of a uniform workers council on the territory of the Union. The Economy has the effect of affecting many areas and the need to integrate its areas to facilitate economic growth has the effect of accelerating economic processes and making them more efficient throughout Europe.

Then the pooling of skills can be lifesaving for the States. This thesis was carried by Alan Milward, who considers that European integration is only the affirmation on the international scene of the nation-state which legitimizes the integrative process by creating this organization to meet its needs. Indeed, it is very likely that States alone could not meet the needs of their citizens through protectionist policies or simply because of the size of their market.. Creating an international economic organization on a European scale has enabled states to somehow avoid their own collapse and to go beyond their limits.

It is for this reason that some authors have spoken of a “supranational intergovernmentalism” or “intergovernmental federalism” (a concept developed by Maurice Croisat and Jean-Louis Quermonne), which refers to a way of governing together on specific issues to be more efficient and at a lower cost. Some authors (and in particular Andrew Moravscik) also consider that one of the attractions of the European Union lies in the cost savings for States which delegate certain powers to a supranational entity specialized in the integrated field. This specialization at Union level therefore benefits all these Member States, makes it possible to react more quickly and in a more unified manner while costing less to the budgets of the Member States.

Finally, the attractiveness of the European model is also found in its protectionist capacity in the face of ever more conquering globalization. Indeed, Andrew Hurrel poses several arguments which consider that the phenomenon of regionalism is a reaction of the States faced with a competition resulting from globalization which they cannot face by themselves..

All these elements therefore probably inspired the States that emerged from the former USSR when they signed the Astana Treaty establishing the Eurasian Economic Union. Besides, it is worth pointing out that one of the advantages of the new EEU is that it is at a crossroads between the major European and Asia-Pacific groups.. Thus it seemed obvious that it was necessary to reintegrate into the space of the former USSR to stimulate the growth of these countries and to use the advantages derived from the left-over infrastructure of the former Soviet Empire.

To take full advantage of the European example, the authors of the Treaty of Astana decided to take up key elements of the European Union. Thus we find a mention of the four freedoms of movement in article 1 as well as a mention of the fact that the EEU has international legal personality, which allows the EEU to act in its name and to sign acts of international law.

We find institutions similar to those of the EU when we see in article 8 the creation of a Eurasian Commission (a body supposed to be the decider of initiatives of the EEU as well as the integrated body representing the interests of the Union) and Councils (one at ministerial level like the Council of the European Union and one at the top like the European Council, bearing in mind that in the Treaty of Astana this is referred to as the “Supreme Council” as at the time of the USSR). A large part of the treaty is also devoted to the functioning of the Eurasian Internal Market, on a model close to the European one. Of course, the Eurasian Union also takes up the notions of “harmonization of legislation” which has made the strength of the European Union.

But if these elements refer a lot to the European Union, it is undeniable that the History of the two sets is very different and this can affect their real functioning. Even if the founders of the EEU claim simply to follow the European example, they did not inherit the same History nor the same geopolitical configuration as Europe did. Nor is their degree of internal economic development comparable. This is what we are going to study now via an analysis of the particular nature of the UEE.


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